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3/17/2017 MasteringtheArtoftheCoverLetter|ACSAxial:YourBondWithChemistryResearch

ThiseditorialoriginallyappearedinTheJournalofProteomeResearch.

Publishingistheprincipalmeansbywhichscientificfindingsarecommunicatedandconfirmedtothebroadercommunity.AsIhalf
jokinglyremindmylab,Ifitisntpublished,itdoesntexist.Amongthemanystepsinthepathtopublication,ifyouarelikemost
authors,thecoverletteristhelaststepintheprocessand,unfortunately,oftenthemostrushedandoverlooked.Authorswho
underestimatethevalueofastrongcoverletteroftensquanderanopportunitytodelineatethevalueoftheirwork,whichcansometimes
determinewhetheramanuscriptisevensentforpeerreview.Beforedigitalsubmissionofmanuscriptsbecamethenorm,thecover
letterwasattachedtothefrontofthemanuscriptsothatitwasthefirstdocumentaneditorwouldread.Atypicallettermightincludethe
titleofthepaper,verificationthatithasbeensubmittedtoonlythisjournal,suggestionsofappropriatereviewersforthepaper,and,
mostimportantly,informationabouttheimportanceoftheworkanditsrelevancetothereadershipofthejournal.Sincemuchofthe
operationalinformationisnowprovidedthroughcheckboxesandotherformsinthedigitalsubmissionprocess,authorsnolongerfeel
compelledtodescribethework,makingthecoverlettermoreofanafterthoughtoraplacewherepeoplereiteratetheinformation
alreadyprovidedinthesubmissionprocess.

Evenintheageofdigitalsubmissions,agoodcoverletterisaneffectivetool,andthebestletterswilluseplainlanguagetoexplainwhy
theworkisimportant,whyitwillinterestthereadersofthejournal,andthuswhyitshouldbepublished.Thecoverletterisagolden
opportunitytosellthescienceinyourpapertotheeditorshandlingthepaper.Suchclearlystatedlettersareinvaluabletoeditorswho
havethedifficulttaskofdecidingwhetherornotthepaperisappropriateforthejournal.Withoutinformationfromtheauthors,wemust
relyonreviewers,whomayormaynotbegoodatidentifyingthesignificanceofthework,andwhenreviewersfocusontechnicalissues
inamanuscriptratherthanthescientificvalueofthefindings,theevaluationofsignificancefallstotheeditorsalone.Whiletechnical
qualityorclarityinapapercanoftenbeimprovedinrevision,significanceishardtoimprovewithoutadditionalexperimentsand
insightsinessence,itisthereornot.Sincethereisanelementofintheeyeofthebeholderastothesignificanceofresearch,it
behoovesauthorstoclearlyspellitout.Withouttheguidanceoftheauthors,aneditormightnotappreciatetheimportantadvances
offeredbyapaper.Evenifthesignificanceissubtle,thepapermaybeworthpublishing,butwithouttheinsightsprovidedinacover
letter,editorsmightmissthosepoints.Weallhavestoriesaboutapaperthatshouldhavebreezedthroughpeerreviewbutfailed
becauseitdidnotresonatewithreviewersortheresearchwastoofaraheadofitstimetobeappreciated.Mymosthighlycitedpaper
wasrejectedthreetimes.Thereviewprocessisnotinfallible,andwhilewestrivetobefairandbelievetheprocesstobeasobjectiveas
possible,thereis,attimes,someinescapablesubjectivity.Awellcraftedandinformativecoverlettercanhelptheeditor(s)beaswell
informedabouttheresearchanditssignificanceaspossible,andthusifreviewersmissthesignificanceofthework,thenwecantake
stepstomakesureimportantpointsgetnoticed.

Tosumup,yourcoverlettershouldbeconciseandshouldaddress:

1.Whyistheworkimportant?

1.Doesitmakeanimportantprocessfaster,moresensitive?

2.Canyouuncovernewinformationthatcouldnotbemeasuredbefore?

3.Didyoudiscoversomethingnewaboutabiologicalprocess?

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3/17/2017 MasteringtheArtoftheCoverLetter|ACSAxial:YourBondWithChemistryResearch

4.Haveyouvalidatedandverifiedthefinding?

2.Whatarethebroaderimpactsoftheresearch?

3.Whomightbeinterestedintheresearch?

4.Ifyouhavetalkedtoaneditorandwereencouragedtosubmit,thenstatethis.

Ifyouhavetalkedtoaneditorandwereencouragedtosubmit,thenstatethis.

Byprovidingaclearlywrittenandconcisecoverletter,youcangiveyourmanuscriptthebestpossiblechanceforpublication.

Ifyouhavecommentsorquestionsfortheauthorofthispost,pleaseemail:Axial@acs.org.

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